5 beaches in Algarve where I’ve been and I loved them!

Before going back to the gloomy, rainy summer we’re having in London this year (really, London? Come on, we all know you can be lovely with a bit of sun!), I want to share with you some tips about beaches I recommend for your holiday in Portugal. Ready, set, go.

1) Praia da Dona Ana (Lagos)

Beautiful beach cove in Lagos that you must see! Enjoy the boat tour that departs from here every hour, cruising all along and inside the mesmerising grottos and cliffs. My absolute favourite of the Algarve region.

 

 

2) Praia dos Buizinhos (Porto Covo)

This is another fantastic bay enclosed between cliffs, reachable via stairs, with a stunning view from the top. The sea is metallic blue and the waves breaking against the rocks are spectacular.

 

 

3) Praia da Galé (Albufeira)

If you, like me, enjoy long long walks on the shore and taking pictures of rock formations, then you should spend a day in Praia da Galé.

 

 

4) Praia dos Alemães (Albufeira)

Located between Praia dos Aveiros and Praia do Inatel, this beach has a tucked away bay, with a rock barrier built to prevent erosion (perfect frame for your Instagram pictures!). A wooden staircase takes you up the top, where the views of the glorious vegetation and the coastal landscape are simply stunning! One of the highlights of my latest Portuguese holiday, definitely.

 

 

5) Praia dos Pescadores (Albufeira)

You can’t go to Albufeira and not spend at least one day and one evening in and around Praia dos Pescadores. During the day it’s a long sandy beach, full with people, with an inflatable waterpark (you have to swim to reach for it!) and sport activities. At sunset the colours are simply magic, and when the night falls you can stroll along the high top of Albufeira town, enjoying the view in the moonlight.

 

Have you ever been on holiday in the Algarve? What are your favourite spots? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below! 🙂

Hanging out with lemurs in Madagascar

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Ylang-Ylang. It’s the name of a particular tree whose leaves hang well organized in a line on every branch, like wet clothes hung out to dry.  Like those colourful batik blankets and table cloths that salute your arrival when the tender boat approaches the island, coming from Nosy Be. We took off our shoes on the tender boat, advised that we would have to walk a few meters in the sea to reach the beach of Nosy Komba. During the boat ride, the beautiful scenery of green and gorgeous Madagascar unfolded in front of our eyes, while the guide was pointing the marine reserve from a distance.
Ylang-Ylang, I was saying. They extract a precious and delicate essential oil from this tree, and it’s widely used in the perfume industry (it’s one of the key notes of the fragrance Chanel No.5). These trees, with their shade and their inebriating perfume, escorted us along the way to the top of the hill of Nosy Komba, where we met the lemurs. Black lemurs and brown lemurs. They rattle on the branches from tree to tree, and stop in a formation of two or three, looking at you with those wide eyes… And when you stand with a few pieces of banana in your hand, they quickly jump on your shoulder to enjoy that sweet meal and stare at you, and you enjoy that brief bonding connection with
these little creatures becoming their best friend for a handful of seconds. I always had a tender feeling for lemurs because they remind me of my grandfather.
Let me explain this: when my grandpa was still alive and he was ill with Parkinson disease and he was living with us, he once fell on the floor and had a sort of a near death experience. When he came back home after a couple of days at the hospital, his hair was spiky and his grey eyes were wide open with a scared expression, and I swear to God he totally looked like a lemur.
But I’m digressing, I was talking about the Ylang-Ylang. Under the fresh shade of these trees we walked down through the village: open houses of residents selling local crafts and art pieces, kids playing and dancing carelessly on the street (along with geese and roosters roaming free all over the place), market stalls offering bananas and mangoes,
a guy with two chamelions climbing his arm and neck… and suddenly, a huge rainfall! pouring heavy and unannounced from the sky (apparently sudden and short rainfalls are daily routine on this island, hence the wonderful and prosperous vegetation).
Towards the end of our visit, a big table was set with sweet tropical fruit and some delicious coconut biscuits, and we enjoyed that simple yet luxurious banquet listening to the raw voices of the locals singing to the sound of drums and small guitars, on the shore.
The guide said to me “Come back! You have to see more, there’s more than this in Madagascar!”, as if all that richness we saw were not enough. “There’s a flight every day
from Rome to Nosy Be!”… Well, I live in London now, but I’ll definitely bring to London some rays of sun and some lessons learned on this lovely island: it will be nice when I’m changing line at Bank tube station at peek time, with a thousand people running like headless chicken, to go back with my mind to an island where life is simple and true as you see it, and where people are not owned by what they own, or pressured by timetables and social standards. And the guide added “Here we have a say: don’t wait to be happy for smiling… smile to be happy”. I, happily, smiled.

(Oh, I was telling you about the Ylang-Ylang: I bought a little bottle of that essential oil, it’ll bring a breeze from Madagascar to my London house. Actually I might carry it with me on my daily commuting and have a sniff everytime I’m on the verge of walking like a caterpillar on people who don’t keep on the right side of the escalators.)

Safari in South Africa

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I spent, all in all, two and a half months on the South African territory, working on board SilverCloud. One of the perks of my job as performer (with quite a nice amount of time in my hands sometimes) is that I get the chance of volunteering to escort some of the tours, in order to socialise and take care of the guests on board during these activities.
I took this opportunity straight away and entered the magic world of safaris and game reserves! [Drum roll- epic music- sepia filter- slow motion shot of me dressed in kaki clothes and sunglasses boarding a 4×4. That’s how I want you to picture me, so please stick to this image. Thank you for your cooperation.]

I was quite excited: before then, my experience with wild animals only consisted in watching bored beasts living miserably caged in a zoo, or spied on some documentaries on tv. Oh, and once I got ferouciosly (and totally out of the blue, uninvited) scratched by Ooch, the red cat of my friend Claudia (I guess it counts, it left me scarred for life).
South Africa is the perfect place to come face to face with the species grouped under the name of “Big Five”: African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and Rhinoceros.
The term Big Five was coined by big-game hunters of the 18th/19th century, and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot.
My intention of trying to see all five of them, although, failed miserably… I didn’t get to see any lions or leopards.
But this is my experience in some of the game resorts I visited, so enjoy!

Addo Elephant Park

Reachable within 40 minutes car ride from the pier of Port Elizabeth, this place is good not only for spotting elephants: during our two hour safari we got to see plenty of warthogs, a couple of buffalos, some zebras and a lot of tortoises of different sizes (which crossed the street and very elegantly disappeared in the grass). But the most spectacular moment was undoubtly when our vehicle reached a vast barren valley, with a water pond in the middle, and a large number of elephants were drinking and bathing. We saw these creatures move with their slow solemnity, like an ancient natural ritual… and we arrived just in time to see a second group of elephants (a group of elephants is called a “parade”, and now I understand why) coming on the other side in a slow and neat line, with their heavy but silent pace. All looked like a perfectly staged circus of nature. At the end of the parade we saw the oldest elephant in the park, cross right in front of our vehicle and then walk away towards the horizon. I learned some trivia facts about their skin: apparently it’s 4 to 5 centimeters thick, and all the wrinkles have the purpose of retaining water and keep the skin hydrated for a long time during the day. I was so fascinated by these animals and the wise dignity I saw in their eyes, that when I went back on board I made a drawing with pencils (which is now on my wall and keeps me company. And gives me judgemental looks when I procrastinate. And he’s damn right.)

St. Lucia Hippo Heaven

I did this lake cruise when we were docked in Richard’s Bay on Boxing Day. Let’s start stating that my initial idea of how a hippopotamus was and behaved was entirely conditioned by a famous 80’s Italian tv commercial for a very popular brand of nappies, where a cute happy blue hippo bounced along merry melodies, being friendly with tiny babies in nappies and their mums. It was then a shock for me, once arrived at St.Lucia, to find that hippos are in reality pretty badasses. They are responsible for the majority of the humans attacked and killed in Africa every year. They have frequent and sudden mood swings, they engage in fights very easily and they don’t merrily bounce, they actually can run really fast when on land, attacking you and ripping you to pieces. Well, this fortunately didn’t happen during my Hippo Haven experience (thank God, Ganesha, Buddha and the whole lot).
The hippos I saw during the lake cruise were instead very lazy (maybe because of the heat and the sun which was quite strong that day), and they barely surfaced from the waters, in small groups, like floating logs.
I managed to see a couple of baby hippos as well, glued to their mother’s bum. Couldn’t see any crocodiles (they were advertised, but you can’t really schedule wild animals, can you?) but I enjoyed occasional flocks of white and bright yellow birds crossing the air, and a big water lizard doing a contemporary dance routine towards our boat. Lovely. Less lovely was when the lizard disappeared, and I started being paranoid about the fact it could have climbed the boat and hidden somewhere to savagely eat my neck in a moment of distraction, ruining my shirt.


Tala Private Game Reserve

This was so cool! A multitude of different animals all in the same park, roaming free and living peacefully together. The giraffes gave the best show to my eyes, their long necks seemed to compose a perfect pattern with the dry branches of the trees, it was really spectacular. Not only them: we found a beautiful area where antilopes and buffaloes were resting in the shade, and it looked like a Disney movie… And shortly afterwards we encountered a lot of zebras, a couple of ostriches, families of warthogs and a water pond full of egyptian birds. And of course the rhinos: a group of them were laying down resting in a mud bank (they like to be covered in mud because it keeps them cool, and when it dries it imprisons the parasites they have on their skin, killing them), and they didn’t have their famous horn. There is still a crazy traffic of rhino horns, and many animals are killed by illegal hunters every year for this purpose, so the staff of this game reserve trim the rhinos’ horns regularly, in order to discourage this horrible practice.


I’ll leave you with the pictures of crocodiles, tortoises and snakes I saw at Phezulu Reserve Park (Valley of a Thousand Hills, Richard’s Bay), and soon I’ll tell you about when I played with lemurs in Madagascar, I think that deserves a post on its own 🙂